Statement by His Excellency the Honorable
Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs
on the occasion of the opening of the General Debate of the General
Assembly on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the United Nations
New York, September 30th, 1998
Excellencies, Distinguished Representatives, Mr. President, Secretary General,
Ladies and gentlemen:
2. It is indeed my privilege, on behalf of the government and people of St Kitts and
Nevis to have this opportunity once again to address the General Assembly.
3. I feel especially pleased to participate this year which coincides with the
commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, an
instrument that has sought for the last fifty years to protect and advance the political,
social and cultural human rights of peoples around the world.
4. Throughout this half century, the debate on human rights has focused
critical attention on cultural, social and political rights. Regrettably,
we failed to develop an international agenda, which includes economic
rights as an integral part of fundamental human rights.
Conceptually, poitical human rights, now a critical component of
some foreign policy positions, have been fused imperceptibly with
democracy, hence politics and human rights, have become synonymous.
I too am an advocate of human rights protection, and I believe strongly
that if we insist on politics in human rights, the politics should
be to enhance human dignity and the human condition, by including
5. The corpus of human rights demands innovative approaches whereby an individual's
human rights are not measured only by the freedom to vote, but also by the right to
self-development in a holistic sense.
6. On the eve of the new millennium I am still quite dissatisfied with the level of
attention the world community is paying to the severe economic, environmental and
potential political problems that threaten small island developing states, These problems
are not new to this forum, they are well established and documented facts.
7. Only last year, I spoke about the vulnerability of small island states and the need
to establish practical, viable programs to help us in our development processes. I
lamented also on the serious and ill-conceived notion of graduating small states like St.
Kitts and Nevis into artificial categories based on GNP per capita.
Today, I stand before you, having witnessed again, first hand the effects of a
hurricane which brought major sectors of the economy to a stand still, and increased the
possibility of suffering. In a matter of a few hours, Mr. President, distinguished guests,
the growth and progress of the last few years have been literally wiped from the landscape
of our lives. Large sectors of our rural communities, in particular, now appear to be
reverting to a state of abject poverty.
This is the stark reality. This is the reality of small island developing states. We
have no tolerance for bureaucrats or financial houses telling us which levels of
development is acceptable. Our reality after a hurricane is about people living without
the basic necessities that we all take for granted. It is about families displaced, having
to watch their dreams lie in ruins. It is about women and children made homeless. This is
about real life, not figures arbitrarily concocted for dubious purposes.
It seems that we have come, as a community to rely heavily on figures,
therefore let me share some with you. Initial estimates of the damage
and loss in productivity caused by only one hurricane have been
placed at US$403 million, far exceeding the GDP of St. Kitts and
Nevis. An estimated 85% of residential housing stock suffered slight
to major damage, while approximately 25% have been completely destroyed.
The agricultural sector, one of the major pillars, on which the
St Kitts &Nevis economy stands, has been devastated.
Agricultural output-sugar and non-sugar- is expected to be reduced by as
much as 50% next year. The health sector and our ability to provide
high quality care have been seriously compromised. Not only did
the smaller rural hospitals suffer damage to property and equipment,
but also the Federation's main hospital, the Joseph N. France General,
lost a significant portion of its roof, and damage to equipment
The scene of devastation is equally mind-boggling and severe in other neighboring
islands, therefore the suffering in my country is not unique. However, the fact that we
suffer the same fate year after year, rebuild only to watch our progress washed away so
easily, speaks to the need to look seriously at the vulnerability of island states.
I make an urgent appeal for the international community to come to the aid of our
countries and people. A resolution will shortly be introduced to this assembly on
countries of the North Eastern Caribbean affected by this year's storm, and I urge
countries to support this effort by co-sponsoring the resolution. Also, I wish to express
the gratitude of my government to those agencies, persons and governments which have
responded so readily in lending assistance.
I would hasten to add that the task of rebuilding will not finish as soon as the eyes
of the camera shift their focus, nor will normalcy in its true sense return in a matter of
weeks. We need material, technical and financial support on an on-going basis.
8. I feel compelled to reiterate the problems of small states, especially in the light
of continuous attempts to undermine our economies. My government does not take lightly the
complaints brought before the World Trade Organization, which are tantamount to the
devastating hurricane winds on the small vulnerable banana producing economies in the
Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.
I also fear, as such initiatives continue, the sugar industry in my own country will
suffer a similar fate. Our negligible exports, in percentage terms, cannot pose any
credible threat to any trans-national corporation or large producers of banana and sugar.
However, the removal of this fragile access that we must fight to maintain, could wreak
untold havoc, in social and economic terms, on the lives of so many poor families in the
9. Mr. President, the insidious tentacles of injustice have such tremendous reach,
therefore, international institutions such as the United Nations will be expected to
devise ways to arrest its corrosive character by lending considerable support to the
efforts of small island developing countries.
I say all this against the backdrop that most decisively, the twentieth century has
etched in our consciousness, evidence of the power of the human mind in its infinite
creativity and potential. Now, we cure illnesses once thought incurable, create
technological feats that boggle the mind. I salute the men and women who have made this
10. It becomes critically important, therefore, as nations, that we utilize these
catapulting developments and shared experiences as the blueprints for the enormous
challenges of poverty eradication, illicit drug trafficking, nuclear proliferation, war
mongering, economic inequity and disaster prevention and mitigation.
In as much as this century has brought exceptional technological
advancements, economic initiative and growth; the new millennium
will demand greater moral strength and public leadership. It will
require its leaders to develop similar courage and statesmanship
against powerful challenges. It will dare us all to harness the
moral energy to transcend partisan agendas in favor of a common
11. It is impractical to alienate an individual's human rights from their right to
development. These are inseparable and paramount My government regards the growth of human
rights in its entirety as a genuine step towards strengthening democracy itself.
In order for democracy to take root and the democratic process to develop in its
sincerest sense, we must nurture the complete range of fundamental human rights. Then and
only then will the human person flourish.
When we hold up ourselves as standard bearers of democracy and bastions of human rights
protection, it becomes essential to preserve human dignity worldwide. It has been said,
and I quote "when the empire of man over nature can no longer be easily extended,
then the only way for a people to increase its standard of living is by redistributing the
sources or fruits of industry from others to themselves" end of quote.
12. Mr. President, any real hope for a more peaceful and equitable
21" Century lies in the evolution of our thinking on human
rights and other issues critical to small island states. One of
the most crucial challenges in the coming century will be to address
the quicksand of uneven economic development within the current
economic system. These have direct consequences for the disparities
in wealth and resource distribution.
13. Mr. President, I raise the issue of vulnerability not to crave preferential
treatment for our region, but because the international community must be mindful of our
14. It is being said that the structure and growth of the world investment climate are
being shaped by current events such as the Asian crisis, the European monetary union along
with the creation of the Euro, advances in technology, liberalization of national
financial markets and their integration into a global market
Where does this scenario leave small island developing states like
St. Kitts and Nevis, especially when so many critical actors militate
against our development priorities? Foreign direct investment is
considered one of the main vehicles of the liberalization process.
15. Small developing economies are being forced to liberalize and integrate into the
center of a global economic system, which has always relegated us to the periphery.
International capital is steadfastly in search of new market yet has continued to overlook
Consequently, the vast majority of the 4 trillion dollars in foreign direct investment
spent in 1997 bypassed our countries. At the center of international integrated investment
flows I quote, "are large international and transnational corporations and their
affiliates whose global sales volume were estimated to have reached 7 trillion dollars in
1995" end of quote.
16. This begs the question, Mr. President; how do our agro-based,
and export-oriented economies cope with, or even attempt to compete
against giant transnational institutions, in an era, where international
production has now become more important than exports, in terms
of the delivery of goods and services to foreign markets?
17. Foreign direct investment, as I have come to understand it, integrates markets
through intra-business activities and the production systems of countries. Therefore, our
economies cannot participate in this huge and rapidly growing production system because we
have not been given necessary technical, technological and material support to move into
the center of the global market place through its main vehicle, production. To make
matters worse, Mr. President, we have not been allowed opportunities to gain appropriate
access to those critical markets, whereas, foreign businesses based in these countries,
have the access and capability to dominate and flood our markets with cheap products.
18. One only needs to pay casual attention to the media to appreciate the tendency
towards national and transnational mega-mergers and strategic economic business alliances
that are taking place around the world. Our region is fast developing a competitive
19. Earlier, I spoke of injustice. I consider it an injustice when capital can be
mobilized and deployed in such ways that could easily destroy the welfare of entire
nations with impunity, or stifle competition completely. Globalization has been touted as
a great vehicle of opportunity and promise, but I ask, for whom, Mr. President?
Globalization, it is said offers a huge reservoir of resources for investment growth,
economic equity, and social advancement However, distinguished colleagues, in my region,
we are yet to see these promises. In the Caribbean, we are much more familiar with the
20. In anticipation of the changes taking place, our countries have made significant
reforms. Regrettably, however, the international community, including prominent
international financial institutions has not always rallied in support of our efforts.
Like the hurricane, each year we build and rebuild, but are susceptible to external
forces. Our efforts seem to go unnoticed.
Today, the wide rift between expectation and achievements continues to grow. St. Kitts
and Nevis looks forward to the convening of a Special Session to review the implementation
of the Barbados program of Action, and the Copenhagen declaration, and Program of Action.
We urge the United Nations and the International Financial institutions to take a fresh
look at ways to help small developing countries to integrate into this emerging system.
However, the rules of this system will have to be informed by our special situation.
21. We welcome initiatives on resource mobilization, external debt relief, trade and
financing for development, and good governance of the international monetary and financial
systems. Good governance should not only refer to developing countries; it ought to be
extended to include better management of the international economic system Failure to do
so would only lead to instability and uncivil societies and an ungovernable global
The socio-economic and political dilemma facing Small Island developing states must be
addressed now, otherwise, the human and political cost would be much too high.
22. Mr. President, many small nations pay our assessed contribution regularly into the
United Nations system despite meager resources and challenges to our national survival We
expect more. We expect tangible benefits from our membership. It is incumbent on the
United Nations to work with small island states to ensure that they reap the rewards of
the changing political market economy.
23. In my address last June to the United Nations Special Session on Drugs, I assured
this community of my government's commitment to fighting the illicit drug trade. The
government of St Kitts and Nevis remains resolute in its commitment to cooperate in the
eradication of the narcotic trade and associated vices.
This noble fight against a most nefarious and well-financed enemy,
Mr. President, carries a high financial cost It is important to
recognize that the role of consumption is just as important as that
of supply. Therefore, we have a shared responsibility and must focus
on joint approaches informed by cooperation, mutual respect and
understanding. St Kitts and Nevis r ' undaunted and relentless in
its approach to the interdiction of illicit drugs, as we work together
with all nations, in the name of justice, equity and advancing the
24. In the spirit of advancing the human condition, Mr. President, my government urges
restraint, patience and dialogue on the critical issues that separate the Chinese people
in both geographic and political terms.
It is our sincerest hope that the common aspirations and expectations of the Chinese
people will be fulfilled in the near future within an environment of peace and mutual
respect. We believe that the family bonds and historical tradition that have made the
Chinese people a great nation ought to be preserved. We believe that the time has come for
the voice of the millions of Chinese people on the Republic of China on Taiwan to be heard
and factored into the international agenda. We believe that adequate, urgent and practical
mechanisms must be developed to allow them to participate in he work of all nations.
24. In a world bedeviled by so many challenges, and in need of
collective action and new resources, we alienate people and governments
at our own peril. We have an obligation to work with and encourage
the Chinese people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits to support
the progress made to date, so that the advancement of the human
condition transcends politics. I urge negotiation and the development
of confidence building measures, as a way forward to improve cross
strait relations. We also call on the Government of Iraq to abide
by all United Nations resolutions and to release all prisoners of
war and detainees of Kuwait and other countries.
25. In conclusion, as we continue the debate, I trust that we will be able to move
beyond the constraints of the developed- developing country paradigm, of us against them.
26.To advance the human condition in its entirety will require meaningful partnership.
Instead of apportioning blame, I urge you to join with me, as we rededicate our energies
to the search for solutions. By working together, it becomes easier to find ways of
attaining our national aspirations without trampling on the legitimate dreams of others.
27. I thank you. God bless you all.